Thursday, June 19, 2008

There's No Place Like Nome?

Highs in Nome: 41-62
Lows in Nome: 31-41

That's all I can say. I feel like this blog entry should be separated into "the planned trip" and "the unplanned trip". Why? Because this one was more than special in many ways.

All I knew before this trip was that I was going to be out in the field maintaining weather stations on the Seward Peninsula and that there would be some hiking involved.

We flew into Nome Thursday morning and organized ourselves by getting everything we needed to be out in the field for three days. Hungry for some $20 pears or some Tang mix?? Nope, me either! Some of the food prices were outrageous.. $9 for a bottle of cranberry juice.. but some of it was actually cheaper than it is in Fairbanks.. like peaches and nectarines among other fresh fruits. I forgot to check the price of milk. For some reason, the gas prices are not comparatively expensive there either.. it was $4.29 which I think is less than Fairbanks, though I haven't noticed the price lately.
The weather was absolutely spectacular for the first three days, not what I expected. Nome was not what I expected either. It's like a higher-class Barrow with more happening. Neat small town. First we headed to Council, east of Nome, where we have two weather stations nearby. The drive out there was spectacular and totally not what I expected. I guess the reality is that I had no expectations on this trip which really is the way to go. Council is basically a "summer vacation" spot for the people of Nome. You can only access it by crossing the river, which was fluctuating greatly with the snow-melt runoff. We canoed across. What I figured out rather quickly was that this trip was turning into a backpacking trip with a mission and different destinations. We saw a lot of bear prints on the way up to Blueberry hill. It was very quiet in this area and where the station was. We met a man named Dan and his son Edward in Council, whom Bob knew from previous trips. He welcomed us into his house for a beer. I love chatting with old-timer Alaskans.. and even not-so-old-timers. They are such interesting people and lead such different lives from the typical US culture.Outhouse with a skylight!

Below was my favorite location up on Skookum Pass. It was at the top of the mountain with awesome views.
Then I found a new function on my camera. It grabs one color in the frame and only displays that color. How COOL! I was uber-excited about it and went artsy-fartsy with some pictures.
There were still massive towers of snow along the roads in some areas. What do you mean it's summer solstice??!
We camped on the beach that night. And no, I did not do the polar bear dive. If I had a warm place to sleep and a buddy to persuade I would have at least thought about it. ;)

Saturday we headed up north to Kougarok, basically a label on the map that used to be an old mining town. The entire sky was covered in lenticular clouds the entire drive there. That should have been our first sign that the weather would turn bad within 12 hours. Here's the old Cushman St. bridge before the two lane one was put in.
This was an intense day of backpacking (being that I had no idea we were going to be technically backpacking), making our way to two stations quite a ways from the road in the midst of unwelcoming tussocks and swampiness. It was a ton of fun though.. I was able to get my backpacking itch slightly out this day.

After a very long day we headed back and set up camp only to have the weather turn sour. It rained most of the night and we woke up to what would be the next several days' weather.
We tried to fly out Sunday, but our flight got canceled due to fog even though the visibility wasn't that bad and the ceiling couldn't have been that low. We tried again for Mon. morning but the fog kept getting worse and worse until we were under a quarter mile to half mile visibility for most of the day. We keep getting pushed back on flights, which in total were 9 canceled flights in a row. So you can imagine the people waiting to get out and get in. The situation sounds bad but it really wasn't bad at all for the three of us. I got completely hooked up with some housing and transportation from my colleagues up here so we were in good shape. The whole packing, checking in, finding out the flight was canceled, grabbing the checked luggage again, unpacking, and then doing it all over again twice a day started to get old though. I think I gained a great deal of upper arm strength through the process!!
We become very entertained by the little things, like double diffusion in a root beer float.
This was the scene in Nome for a solid 40-some hours.Here's an old gold dredge that is now sitting on FAA land.

We made the most of our extra time and even went to the community barn dance, a part of the Midnight Sun Festival in Nome.Wednesday was spent by actually doing some work that was going to be postponed until the trip in August (yes, we are all planning on going back in Aug!! Hopefully in nice weather!!) Jessie got out on an early flight but Bob and I were still in Nome until that night. We went out to their station at Guy Rowe (east of Nome) to take the station out. It had constantly been being wrecked by bears, so the instruments were taken down last summer and we went to retrieve the poles and batteries. We saw a mama fox and her little one.. the baby went running away when we got out of the truck. On the way home our hungry stomachs were looking for a place and ended us at the Safety Roadhouse, the last checkpoint of the Iditarod along the Council Rd. Since we weren't carrying cash we couldn't eat there, but we met Tom and Pam, who work there. They were awesome to talk to and we actually had lunch in town with Pam who was headed that way. Lots of good stories and I look forward to hearing more in August.. we promised them we would come back to visit.
So in a nutshell, our 4 day trip turned into an 8 day trip. Nome was a hoot. But boy, am I glad to be home!
And I was welcomed home by my pumpkin plants sprouting, woohoo!

1 comment:

theorbo said...

Wow - what an adventure! Thanks for sharing ... I like how your trip morphed from one thing to another - including unexpected "real" backpacking! :)